Ncaa: Are these divisions helpful to student athletes? By: DeAnna Myles

Passion is defined as “intense, driving, or overmastering feeling.” This passion that is described is the intensity that happens in an athlete’s life. The blood, sweat, and tears that happen over the years give these athletics the drive to keep going on in their sport life. But, is passion enough when it comes to the college they will be attending? Will the athletics be given all the opportunities that is possible? The athletes furthering their career is based on the college. This becomes a choice between a D1 or a D2 school.

In 1906, the Intercollegiate Athletic Association was formed, better known now as the National Collegiate National Association. It was created for the competition between the different sports team, and for the eligibility rules for a sport. The association is for men’s and women’s sports. With this association, it helps enforces rules for each sport and the criteria for a sport the athlete wants to play. In 1973, the National Collegiate Athletic Association divided into three divisions, in which division one is the highest level. Universities choose which division they would like to be a part of, when it comes to championships and tournaments. With each division, one lacks what the other doesn’t and others are bigger than what could be imagined.

Division I is the highest level in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. This division is normally held at the largest universities in the country. The schools compete in over 14 sports, have great world class facilities, great coaches and staff, athletes with an outstanding athletic ability, and these schools receive the most attention in the media. In the last school year from 2016-2017, there have been a total of 351 colleges and universities from 49 out of 50 states.

The qualifications of a Division I university is based on academic requirements, and – of course skill. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has two types of qualifiers: the full qualifier and the academic redshirt. The qualifications needed to be a full qualifier in division one are completing 16 courses, 10 of those courses must be completed before your senior year, seven of the courses must be in English, Math, or Science, a minimum gpa of 2.3, meet the requirement for the ACT and SAT, and more importantly graduate from high school. The qualifications needed to be an academic redshirt are completing 16 core classes, minimum core gpa of 2.0, meet the redshirt requirement for the ACT and SAT and most of all graduate high school. If none of these qualifications are met, then you won’t be eligible to play a sport.

Division I universities have the largest budgets for their athletics and offer the most scholarships to athletes. These universities that are of Division I “commit to maintaining a high academic standard for student-athletes in addition to a wide range of opportunities for athletics participation.” (http://www.ncaa.org/about?division=d1)

With over 350 Division I schools, thy provide over 170,000 opportunities for student-athletes to compete in the NCAA each year. Division II has similar characteristics, but it isn’t as big as Division I.

Division II is the intermediate-level division in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Division II has 306 colleges and universities, in which these schools are in 44 of the 50 states. As of the last school year of 2016-2017, there are 12 more schools that will be classifying themselves as Division II schools in the next year. Athletes in Division II are picked for their athletic contributions, academic success, and the success in their communities. Athletes in Division II are just as competitive and qualified just like Division I, but the financial resources are limited for Division II, in which Division I has a lot more financial resources.

Division II schools are smaller than Division I schools. When it comes to scholarships, student athletes have to depend on a combination of athletic and educational scholarships to finance their tuition. With new rules for eligibility in Division II, to be qualified you need to have a minimum gpa of 2.2, and allows lower standardized test scores to be offset by the high core courses. The enrollments at Division II schools range from more than 25,000 to less than 2,500. That’s some good numbers for a Division II school. Division II has some great qualities for its student athletes, but the lowest level would be Division III were there aren’t any financial resources.

Division III is the smallest but largest division in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Division III makes up 450 institution which consists of 180,000 student athletes. These institutions coming from 35 out of the 50 states, and the District of Columbia. Division III is the smallest when it comes to the financial resources, in this division since they aren’t allowed to offer athletic scholarships. The National Collegiate Athletic Association describes the Division III experience as “participation competitive athletic environment that pushes the student athletes to excel on the field and build upon their potential by tackling new challenges around the campus.”

The primary focus for Division III student athletes is to help minimize the conflicts between athletic events and academics. With the focus primarily on academics, it helps the student athletics get geared up and be more focused for graduation. Division III schools have shorter practices, playing seasons, and regional competitions. With the shortness of seasons, it helps these athletes feel like students and are able to participate in the things they like. Division III is a good division for athletes that care more about their acadamics rather than their athletic abilities.

Overall the three divisions in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, has its perks and downfalls. Each divisions should be provided the financial resources for their student-athletes. Student-athletes dedicate a lot of time and effort when it comes to doing sports and maintaining their grades. Whether an athlete is in Division I, II, or III, each athlete should receive the financial resources and opportunities when needed. Passion is what an athlete thrives off of, and without the help that is needed, things won’t get better.

Harding University is a private liberal university located in Searcy, AR. Harding is ranked as a Division II school. They have over 17 sports being played by women and men teams. Harding has seven facilities that are used during the sporting events. With Harding being a Division II school, there are athletics on full football scholarships, partial football scholarship, or maybe just a scholarship that only covers room and board. With the scholarships, it might cover some but not a lot.

I had the pleasure of interviewing four athletes at Harding University. Two of these athletes being on the women’s soccer team and the last two are athletes on the football team. Each athletes journey being in Division II has been different than the other. Each athletes story was a great one but of course had its concerns about the lack of help they receive. Due to confidentiality of sport scholarships, not all the athletes are to speak about how much money their scholarship is.

The first student athlete I interviewed was Frank Herbert IV. Frank is a defensive back on the Harding football team. He is a junior and majoring in kinesiology, and will graduate fall semester of 2018. Frank is originally from Pensacola, FL, and he is the oldest out of his 4 siblings. Frank committed to Harding University his senior year of high school at West Florida High School.

Mr. Herbert started Harding University in the fall of 2013. His first semester of football, he had to redshirt for eligibility reasons. He worked out with his freshman class, and went to practices, but during game days he was in the stands with the other redshirts.

“It isn’t a good feeling to watch your team play, and you can’t play. But, it was only for a semester. It took a while but once my sophomore year started, I knew I was going to give football my all,” says Frank Herbert IV. Mr. Herbert talked how the main concern he faced during his years at Harding, was making sure his school would be paid for and if he would fall behind in his academic studies.

Refund checks are handed out to all students-athletes around the second or third week of school. You don’t have to be a student athlete to get a refund check, if your scholarships, loans or grants cover your tuition have a negative balance, then you will be reimbursed the amount that shows on your account.

When Frank Herbert receives his refund check, it goes directly to the bank. Once it hits the bank, he will be able to buy groceries for his apartment, and to buy essentials that he might need. But, most importantly, he helps his mom if it’s needed. Frank Herbert says, “Family is everything to me. Without my mom, I don’t think I would be the man I am today. She has taught me a lot and has been there for me when I had nobody. So, of course whatever she needs I will be there for her.”

With Frank’s athletic scholarship, he doesn’t have to pay out of pocket for no tuition. In regards to the amount, he can’t speak on how much it is. But, once he graduates, he won’t have to pay back any loans. Assuming is not a good thing to do, but with the costs of Harding University, he has to be on a full ride athletic scholarship.

In Frank’s future, he wants to go to the NFL. But, since he is at a Division II school, he doesn’t believe that he will get offers. He says, “Division I players get the most media coverage and opportunities. It isn’t fair because there are some football players that are just as qualified at a Division II school.”

Overall, in Frank Herbert’s college football experience thus far, he loves the atmosphere he is in but he can’t help but to think if his career will progress to the next level. He wants to be successful, but will he be overlooked because the choice he picked for college? Not everyone’s story is the same or has the same thoughts like Frank.

The second student athlete I interviewed was Yuri Richardson. Yuri Richardson plays on the women’s soccer team, and the position she plays is right back. Yuri Richardson is from Fort Smith, AR, and is majoring in Accounting. She is a sophomore at Harding University. She realized she wanted to attend Harding University junior year of high school.

Ms. Yuri loves playing soccer, she has been playing since she was a little girl. “I love it! I get all the exercise I need, maybe sometimes more than I need but it is a great sport,” says Yuri Richardson.

Without getting in trouble, Yuri was limited to what she could say about her scholarships. In soccer scholarships, there isn’t a such thing as a full ride soccer scholarship at Harding University. So, when it comes to tuition costs, her tuition is halfway covered through her scholarships and her parents pay the rest. But, sometimes she has to find scholarships, to help pay the rest of her tuition if her parents can’t.

“I just feel like sometimes scholarships should be more for student athletes,” says Yuri Richardson. “They want us to play the sport and still maintain good grades, and sometimes it’s hard especially when you have to travel,” as she continues to say.

Since her soccer scholarship doesn’t cover her entire tuition, she wishes there were more financial resources for their student athletes. It can be stressful a situation, when you have to maintain good grades, play a sport and travel, and make sure your tuition gets paid on time before the next semester.

“Being a student-athlete isn’t easy. You worry about too much. Then you stress about whether or not if you have enough time to finish your homework or just be a student,” says Yuri Richardson.

With her future plans, she wants to be an accountant. She loves the sport of soccer but not to have it as a full-time career. Yuri has no regrets in the choices she made for her college experience. Of course, she does wish there was more opportunities in Division II universities, but she can’t hope for too much. She is hopeful that things will change over the years for the future students that attend Harding University.

The third student athlete I interviewed was Terrence Dingle. Terrence Dingle is the quarterback for the football team. He is a junior, majoring in kinesiology. Terrence is from New Port, VA and he is hoping that one day he can make it to the NFL.

The athletic scholarship that Terrence receives covers all of his tuition. When asked how much does his scholarship pay, he replied with, “A lot of money.” So with that being said when Terrence Dingle gets his refund check, it helps with groceries, rent, essentials he might need and anything else he needed. Just like in my first story with Frank Herbert IV, Terrence uses some of his refund check to help with his mother if she might need anything while he is away. Terrence continued to talk about how his scholarship has helped him, and he is blessed for that extra help. But, he couldn’t help to talk about some of his teammates who are on $500 athlete scholarships and that doesn’t cover anything at all. He doesn’t think it is fair, he believes all of his teammates should not have to stress over how they will have to pay for school.

“I love football. It runs through my veins and it gives me great joy to be a part of a football team. I would love to make it to the NFL one day. God willing,” says Terrence Dingle. “I just wish Division II had more resources for its athletes. We should be able to have the same resources like a Division I school has. With having more help, it helps build our confidence so that we can get the opportunities we use to dream of.”

Terrence Dingle graduates in the Fall of 2018 and he only hopes that Division II schools can become more resourceful and that it will be beneficial to the student athletics that will continue to come to Division II schools.

The fourth and final student athlete I interviewed was Hannah Albert. Hannah is a sophomore at Harding University. She plays on the women’s soccer team, the position she plays is the defensive center mid. She is from Dallas, Texas and is majoring in nursing. She loves to play soccer and has loved soccer since she was a little girl.

At Harding University, there is no such thing as a full ride soccer scholarship. Hannah’s family pays a total of 14,000 a year for the fall and spring semester. Her scholarship is only worth about $6,000 - $10,000 a semester, so it doesn’t really cover much. Each semester her total amount is about $14,000 but with her scholarship, it drops it down to $7,000.

“Soccer doesn’t give you full anything. They want us to do our best but won’t pay us the full amount. You really have to love soccer to go through all that and not really get paid,” says Hannah Albert. She has a stained an ankle during the soccer season and she was only given therapy. She didn’t get a doctor’s visit because they didn’t think it was swollen enough that bad. She wasn’t mad about the situation but she wished that they cared and showed a little bit more of a concern for her injury.

“I worry about the costs of college at times, because my dad pays for majority of it, so it seems like the scholarship doesn’t really help with my tuition,” say Hannah Albert. Her main concern is that at times her parents won’t be able to pay for it and she will lose her scholarship. She wishes that there was a better plan to give to soccer players. Most importantly, Hannah doesn’t believe that it is just being Division II school that makes financial resources bad for their athletes.

“I just think that Harding University should be able to provide financial resources for their athletes. They have built buildings and gardens that cost over 1 million dollars. So, I’m sure they can add more money to their scholarships for their student athletes,” said Hannah Albert.

Overall, Hannah doesn’t want to feel guilty for choosing a university and not getting the resources that are needed for her student and athlete life. Hannah just hopes that Harding University can change its policy to help benefit its athletes, and Division II becomes better for colleges so that all schools can get the resources and opportunities student athletes need.

Throughout the research, I have learned a lot more about the three divisions. Division I and II are good for student athletes, but the better choice would be Division I. The schools that Division I have more financial resources and would be willing to help with problems that may surface. Division II will help maybe but you would have to depend on an athletic scholarship, academic scholarship, and your parents if you have to. Division III has a lot of schools but they can’t offer financial help at all, primarily it is about academics and letting these athletes feel like actual students.

The student athlete population will only continue to increase over the years. With all of the school, and institutions that are connected with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, should be able to raise more money and awareness of what student athletes go through. With the growth of all schools, each division should be able to gain a lot of financial resources and opportunities for all of their student athletes. Student athletes play sports for fun and to follow the dreams from when they were younger. No division should take that dream away from these student athletes.

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